I will never forget Marina’s prayer.
It had been kind of her to invite us over for a meal, for this was not common in every-day life in the village. If we had been visitors there, then yes, but we had lived there for quite some time. Her husband had been helping us learn the language, and she had been doing what she could—checking on us, helping us here and there, and giving us tips on Quechua-village survival. This was a woman who could not read but who readily saw and took opportunities to educate and help us. (This same woman had given up her schooling to support her siblings when her parents died.) She and her family had accepted us with all our North American blunders and painful and humorous attempts to speak Quechua.
We entered the courtyard and were greeted by her kids and a handful of chickens. She invited us into her kitchen, and as we approached, I was first welcomed by the smell of wood smoke and the sound of squealing guinea pigs scurrying in the corner. It took several minutes for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. The rammed-dirt walls were blackened with smoke from her mud stove, and the only light came from the doorway and a “chimney” (aka small hole in the roof for the smoke to escape.)
She invited the 5 of us to sit on her 3 small wood stools. There were 4 of them in their family at the time, so they had 4 spoons, 4 bowls, and only 3 stools. (They rolled out a manta for the kids to sit on.)
She explained what she had made and how she had gone out into the fields to gather the greens she used for its preparation. I tried to write down all the new vocabulary words.
I was looking around her kitchen and thinking to myself how blessed I was that someone so humble and with so few resources would spend so much time and energy preparing something for my family and me. I was thinking it was a shame she only had enough dishes for her family, yet she did not seem perturbed by that at all—she had invited us over to eat anyway. I felt badly for her that she only had a few stools to sit on. I felt badly for her that she had to sit so low to cook on her mud stove—in the smoke that did not always rise to the hole in the roof. Plus, she had a dirt floor!
She served the first four bowls. (We would take turns eating.) Then she prayed a blessing over the food.
She thanked God for His abundant blessings on her family, that we had come to her village, and that she had the opportunity to invite the gringos to dinner. Then she blew me away with what she prayed next. She asked God to help those who were poor and did not have anything to eat, and she asked that they would be provided for. I was stunned. Here I was thinking she was so poor and that she had so little. Obviously that was not her line of thinking. She realized that she had all her basic needs met. She also knew there were some, quite possibly her neighbors, who did not always have their daily needs met. These were the ones she prayed for.
What an example she still is to me—especially when I think “woe-is-me” thoughts. We all would do well to be thankful for what we have rather than focus on what we do not have. (There are always those who have less.) When I am moaning and complaining over our lack of financial support, I am convicted when I think of Marina and how she gave cheerfully from her little and prayed thankfully for those less fortunate.
Poverty is not defined by the type of floor you have, the amount of lighting in your kitchen, or the number of dishes or chairs you own. Poverty is a state of the heart.
Is my heart full of gratitude for what the Lord has allowed me to have, to be, and to live? If not, I need to get my focus off my material things and tend to my heart. I need to learn to be rich in my heart—and it begins with gratitude. Marina may not have the most up-to-date kitchen, but she is a woman rich in gratitude and joy that overflows into generosity.
Poverty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Question to consider: Is your heart full of gratitude for what the Lord has allowed you to have, to be, to live?